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Diplomatics of born digital documents – considering documentary form in a digital environment

Corinne Rogers (School of Library Archival and Information Studies, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada)

Records Management Journal

ISSN: 0956-5698

Article publication date: 16 March 2015




This paper aims to explore a new model of “record” that maps traditional attributes of a record onto a technical decomposition of digital records. It compares the core characteristics necessary to call a digital object a “record” in terms of diplomatics or “evidence” in terms of digital forensics. It then isolates three layers of abstraction: the conceptual, the logical and the physical. By identifying the essential elements of a record at each layer of abstraction, a diplomatics of digital records can be proposed.


Digital diplomatics, a research outcome of the International Research on Permanent Authentic Records in Electronic Systems (InterPARES) project, gives archivists a methodology for analyzing the identity and integrity of digital records in electronic systems and thereby assessing their authenticity (Duranti and Preston, 2008; Duranti, 2005) and tracing their provenance.


Digital records consist of user-generated data (content), system-generated metadata identifying source and location, application-generated metadata managing the look and performance of the record (e.g., native file format), application-generated metadata describing the data (e.g., file system metadata OS), and user-generated metadata describing the data. Digital diplomatics, based on a foundation of traditional diplomatic principles, can help identify digital records through their metadata and determine what metadata needs to be captured, managed and preserved.


The value and originality of this paper is in the application of diplomatic principles to a deconstructed, technical view of digital records through functional metadata for assessing the identity and authenticity of digital records.



Rogers, C. (2015), "Diplomatics of born digital documents – considering documentary form in a digital environment", Records Management Journal, Vol. 25 No. 1, pp. 6-20.



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